Do you have friends who are a newly adoptive family and want to show them some love? (If they are still in the paperwork process, start here.)
Every family is unique, but one thing is certain: they needed you while they were in process and they need you now. Their knees are wobbly because the ground keeps shifting beneath their feet. They have pushed, prayed and hustled their way through a grueling paperwork process, survived a beautifully exhausting adoption trip, and are finally home. Ideally, it would be rest time, but nope. It’s go time in a big way with their new child. It’s the celebratory finish line of a marathon. But, before you can fire the confetti cannon, they’re neck deep in the exhaustingly beautiful work of transitioning as a family.
These are some ways that your family can help carry the weight in a way that fits your wiring. Meals are incredible, but there are many other ways to serve and support. The key is moving beyond, “Let me know what I can do.”“Love does.”
1. Grace. Drop off a bag of paper plates, cups, and bowls, with a note saying, “Treat yourself to lots grace. This is not easy. For however messy your house is, grace. For how frazzled you feel as a parent, grace. For whatever feelings pop up, grace. For any tasks you aren’t getting to, grace.”
2. Prayer. Pray like crazy and then let them know you’ve been on your knees. Ask, “How can I be praying now that you are home?” Add the family’s name to your prayer list and then snap a photo. Or, when you see the family, say, “Our family prayed for you last night.” Send a card with specifics on how you are praying.
3. Laughter. It’s all so weighty with emotions and change. Write a giggle prescription with a funny movie invite, hilarious meme, comedian clip, or ridiculous kid story. Drop off movie candy and a Redbox comedy.
4. Ask questions. Do you want to help, but are unsure how? Tell them. Try, “I really want to stand with you in this. What would help you?” Or, want to talk about how it feels to adopt, but not sure what to say? Try, “I can’t imagine what this process is like for you. How are you feeling? What are you learning?”
The good news? You are off the hook. You aren’t expected to say the right things, or even to relate. Honesty is a gift. Just say, “How is everybody doing with all this change?”
Also, ask about their wishes. Are they planning to follow certain protocol as they work on attachment? Are they keeping their world small? Do they prefer that you not touch or hold their child? Would they prefer that gifts and meals be left at the door? Or, do they want you to come over and stay awhile? Are they feeling trapped and lonely or content and needing family space? When you are out with them, ask, “Do you want to talk about all this, or would you rather escape a bit and laugh?” Ask.
5. Celebrate. Rejoice with them. Send a text full of emojis, show up with celebratory chocolate, or take the family out for ice cream. When hosting a family dinner, or are out with friends, make a toast. Offer a “family addition” gift shower. Sometimes families adopt an older child, and they miss the gift of being “showered” like new parents. The adoption process can be grueling, and everyone likes to feel celebrated.
6. Be a Fairy. Call yourself the “fruit fairy” and drop off a bowl of fresh, cut fruit every now and then, or be the “muffin fairy” on Saturday mornings.
7. Welcome. Airport welcome parties are a fun surprise for weary families. Tie balloons to their mailbox or make a sign for the door. Have your kids write “Welcome the Neighborhood” cards. Drop off a “welcome” basket to the new family member.
8. Support Siblings. Being a sibling in this process is a hard gig. Offer to have them over for the day or take them to a park or movie. Add them into something your family is already doing. Offer a carpool or activity ride. So much centers around the adoption. Giving everyone love and time weighs heavily on the parents, so you’d be a blessing.
9. Listen. They might love to hear, “I’d like to grab some coffee and hear about how all this has been for you.” Or, “Let’s go on a walk and talk about how I can help you through this.” Parents in this process have a thousand thoughts swirling, decisions to make, and faith lessons to process. Offer your ear.
10. Coffee Runner. Sometimes a well timed Starbucks run can be life.
11. Offer grace. Let them “feel their feels” without judgment. Tell them, “I know this is hard.” It’s both a happy and crazy hard time. Know that sometimes, even though a parent has worked hard to adopt their child, the fear, doubt and sadness can come on strong. Post-adoption depression is as common as post-partum depression. Life feels upside down. Acknowledge the duality of the feelings.
12. Laundry Angel. Be the beloved laundry helper. Tell them to leave their laundry on the porch and then return it fresh and folded. If they feel weird about undies, tell them to leave them out and not let that get in the way of help.
13. Learn. Try to understand the process of adding a child who has known trauma to a family. Simply ask, “Will you need to parent differently? How can we support all of you as you adjust?” Attempting to “get” what they are dealing will be appreciated. Be open to learning something new and show them that you don’t assume that this is like having a biological child.
14. Meals. Start a meal train with their food wishes in mind. Do they hate noodles? Gluten free? Would they prefer that meals be placed in a cooler on the porch? Just consider that this family is tired, kid-focused and over extended. They might not have the energy for long chats. They may need the food dropped off by five because small people eat early.
Meal help is huge emotional and physical support. Keep it simple and kid-friendly. It’s ok to hit up the grocery deli or give a gift card.
15. Groceries. Drop off kid-friendly groceries. Stock the fridge while they are on their adoption trip, so they don’t return home foodless. Offer to make a Costco or Publix run. Or, offer to pick up their Walmart.com order. Give a gift certificate for Instacart or Shipt.
16. Cleaning. Pay for a cleaning service. Or, do you love to clean? They’ll love you forever and always.
17. Gifts. Gifts are thoughtful, but never have to be expensive. Consider diapers, clothes, kid toiletries, picture books about adoption, bars of good chocolate or flowers from your yard.
18. Pet Help. Help make those walks happen.
19. Errands. While you are already out, what might they need? A dry-cleaning pick-up?
20. Encourage. Text or send notes over time. Let them know you are thinking of them as they figure out family life.
Know that this family might resist help. I encourage you to gently, but respectfully, push a little, while still respecting their attachment wishes. Accepting help is hard. Some want help but are too overloaded to know what to ask for. Others attack challenges with fierce independence. Try saying, “Please let us bless you and play a part in this special process. If it would help you, let us do this.” That said, if you gently push and they decline, that’s OK. You can simply reply with, “If you change your mind, it would bless us to help. We’ll be on our knees for you.”
You’ve read this list and are pursuing ways to show love to an adoptive family, thank you for being a good friend. They need you.
Photo credit: Unsplash